Believing the Chronicle of Disbelief

I believe the first believers partly because of their chronicle of disbelief—their own and that of their detractors. To me it rings true. They knew from firsthand experience that you cannot compel belief in the resurrection. True, they insisted that their message was "true and reasonable," for the events they described were "not done in a corner" (Acts 26:25–26) but could be corroborated and verified, at least at some level and for a few years. Still, their witness amounted to what Jaroslav Pelikan has called, oxymoronically, "public evidence for a mystery." Paul raised the bar about as high as you can when he insisted that no person should believe a lie about the resurrection, and that they certainly should not preach a lie (1 Corinthians 15:12–19); if Christ is not raised then Christian faith devolves into a cruel hoax. He died in Rome because of that conviction. In the end, Peter challenged, "judge for yourselves" (Acts 4:19). 

As I looked at my mother's body, it was a short step from grieving her death to fearing my own death. The Easter message is that I should do neither. The New Testament describes the person and work of Jesus in many ways, but nowhere more succinctly than in Hebrews 2:14–15: "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death." 

- Don Clendenin, "This Is What We Preach," Journey With Jesus blog for Sunday April 16, 2006
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